Social Business

Forget Your Social Strategy. What’s Your HR Strategy?

badge-guest-post-FLATTERI’m a firm believer that no one should “own” social.

Owning social does not only lead to bias, but it is usually not scalable. As everything I do is through the lens of a global, multi-branded enterprise, I’m big on scalability. And it doesn’t get more scalable than employee advocacy.

At Hilton Worldwide, we have a team of 100+ employee advocates that tweet through the @HiltonSuggests handle. We’ve been doing this 3+ years, long before employee advocacy was the buzzword it is today. 

When people learn of this program, they are usually shocked by two things: 

  1. The team is not made up of full-time dedicated staff. It is comprised of Hilton Worldwide employees around the globe and is integrated into their daily job responsibilities.
  2. That a company like Hilton Worldwide let’s 100+ people tweet on behalf of a corporate handle.

The second idea is what I want to dive into today.

There are usually several questions that follow: 

  • How did you gain legal and executive approval to do this?
  • How can you trust your employees to not tweet something offensive or embarrassing?
  • How do you mitigate risk?
  • How do you “keep tabs” on what they’re doing?

I never cease to be amazed by these questions and how frequently they come up no matter where or to whom I’m presenting. To me this is really quite simple and straight forward: Hire good people, train them, and empower them to succeed.

That’s it. 

But therein lies the problem. When you press further and look around at the social media blunders that take place on an all too often basis, we realize that good talent is not only hard to find, it is hard to keep. And we need to think very differently about our employee relations than we did in days past. 

We live in an age of uber publicity. Everything today is public. Private and confidential documents are easily leaked, private messages can become public, and emails meant for a few can spread like wildfire.

Everyone is sharing and we need to ensure our employees understand the implications in this new world. 

Furthermore, we need to hire, train, and retain based on culture like never before. Today almost everyone’s private life is displayed on social media and just because you haven’t given your employees permission to do so doesn’t mean they aren’t out there representing your brand.

This can either be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. 

These opportunities are no longer optional. Pretty soon it won’t be only about the brand. It’s possibly fair to say that it is officially not about the brands. Brands have been trying to do advocacy marketing for years but who is a better advocate than your employee? And as Jay Baer says, “If your employee isn’t your biggest advocate, you’ve got much bigger problems than social media.” 

So, I want to offer up a controversial statement: Stop worrying so much about your social media strategy. Instead, schedule some time with HR and ask them about their strategy.

With more and more people foregoing traditional employment opportunities and instead exploring freelancing, what are you doing to recruit, train, and retain the best talent? Are you training them on how to develop a personal brand? Are you enhancing their job skill set in creative ways to keep them enticed and engaged? Are you setting up opportunities to empower them to achieve success? If not, at the very least I’m sure a quick Twitter search will reveal some complaints from employees. 

I’m insanely passionate about Hilton Suggests because it has provided a vehicle for our employees to do more, to stretch their limits, and grow their job skill set in creative ways. This should be celebrated.

Going back to why social shouldn’t be “owned” – some of our best tweeters have been chefs, HR managers, and catering managers.  These aren’t usually the go-to resources for social media marketing, but the content they produce is some of the most relevant, compelling, and authentic destination content available. They represent us every single day offline, so why would we be worried about them doing the same thing online? 

Which camp does your company fall into? Do you have crazy passionate employees you should be leveraging and just need to figure out the process by which do so? Or do you have a serious HR issue on your hands and you need to educate your company on the fact that they won’t be able to source and retain good talent if they don’t get creative?

Whichever one it is, I believe the social media strategist should spearhead the conversation. So yes, get ready to add the HR strategy feather to your cap.

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  1. says


    Thanks for sharing – I was not aware of Hilton’s approach. And though I agree with your statement that “…we need to hire, train, and retain based on culture like never before”, I have to admit I haven’t encountered an HR department capable or willing to do this in my entire career. Any suggestions for making this work when the HR department is nothing more than processors of paperwork that push the actual work back onto the hiring managers?

    At Hilton, are these 100+ employees limited to Twitter or are the able to advocate for Hilton across other social media such as blog posts, Facebook, Instagram etc.? If so, what is the process like for suggesting content and getting it published – or can they just do it on their own without approvals, reviews, or even scheduling? If not, how does Hilton handle the rest of social media/networking outside Twitter?


    • Vanessa Sain-Dieguez says

      Thanks for your comment Pat. I can sympathize with your situation as I hear this a lot from other companies when I present. I’m very fortunate to work for an organization that not only takes social seriously, but empowers us to think big. This is especially true of our HR and Legal departments which have been wonderful partners and advocates for us. We couldn’t have done all this without their support.

      As for Hilton Suggests, this team interacts via Twitter mostly. Some have a more robust social presence but we’ve found many of our team members like the security of engaging via a corporate handle versus their own. Contrary to popular believe, this actually empowers them and gives them the confidence to engage.

      • says

        Vanessa, thanks for your reply. Can I borrow your legal and HR departments? 😉

        And I completely understand and appreciate the preference for the security of a corproate handle!

        Continued success!


      • says

        That is great to see and something most brands don’t understand.. Once you find a method and process that empowers your employees to be social and take an interest in being the face of the brand you must go with that not what the “C-suite” believes is best! Thanks for sharing this @vanessasaindieguez:disqus

  2. says

    Best post I’ve read in weeks! Couldn’t not agree more with everything in this article! Empowering, educating and supporting social employees is a powerful tool that far too many brands don’t understand because they lack trust in their employees! Thank you @VSdieguez for sharing Hiltons story as hopefully it will show other brands the power of social! Kudos to @jasonbaer:disqus for sharing this guest post and leading the way!

  3. says

    Vanessa thanks for the post. It feels like you read my mind. When we hire, train, and retain the right way we do get an engaged workforce, one that we can trust on social media, one that we’ll encourage to represent our company online. @patmcgraw your question is a really good one. There are some forward thinking HR teams out there that are leading the way but many are still rooted in paperwork and compliance. In my last corporate role we had a mix but we also had a very entrepreneurial spirit so other areas were pushing this sort of “change” agenda. I was one of them until I went out on my own earlier this year. Now, I work with companies to do just what Vanessa talked about, understanding their jobs beyond a bulleted list of skills and then making the right fit between talent and the role. When people are in a job that fits like a glove they will be your advocate.

  4. ARS says

    Jay Baer says, “If your employee isn’t your biggest advocate, you’ve got much bigger problems than social media.”

    Wow – that’s pretty heavy stuff and a good thought exercise. On the practical side: The fear associated with letting so many employees have access to post on behalf of the company is based on just that concept: what about disgruntled employees? How much damage might they do? Are these fears realistic and what measures should we take to limit potential problems?

  5. Bobby Isaacson says

    Awesome post Vanessa – I remember when we first spoke about the Hilton Suggest program – I was one of the people that asked those very questions :)

    We work with every organization to stress the importance of upfront training and engraving social into HR strategy. It’s not just ‘here’s a technoloy, go share’

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